Toronto’s Mayor wants to ban handguns across Canada. He also wants to close down shooting ranges in his city. At least he did, but when the public commentary went sour on him his council backed away.
Mayor David Miller’s powerful executive committee has reversed course on part of a proposed anti-firearms policy after getting an earful from the gun lobby.
A city report on measures to address gun violence in Toronto called for several steps, the most controversial being to terminate leases with two gun clubs that run shooting ranges on city property at Union Station and a Scarborough community centre.
The committee instead asked staff to draft a report on options for the clubs to move out of what Miller called “inappropriate” locations and re-establish themselves on private property, an idea crafted by Councillor Norm Kelly.
Existing gun ranges on private property in Toronto are being grandfathered in under the staff proposal, so penalizing the two clubs operating on city property was deemed unfair.
The Mayor says that he is not backing down but because they can’t close private ranges it is a matter of “respect” to the two ranges on city property to allow them to move to a private facility. So now it isn’t that the shooting ranges are of great danger to the public, it’s just that it is “inappropriate” that they are housed on city property. Can we say “political spin”?
But now the Toronto police are complaining that as they crack down on illegal gun ownership in the city the thugs are turning to knives to solve their personal vendettas. What a surprise!
In Toronto and its suburbs, the ease with which you can purchase a knife attracts scant attention. Instead, the city is so consumed with combatting gun crime that Mayor David Miller and City Council will vote this month on the extraordinary step of evicting legal gun clubs from publicly owned locations such as Union Station, where a gun club has been housed since 1921.
While homicide detectives and policy-makers say firearms are still the biggest scourge on Toronto’s streets, the attention, time and money dedicated in the past few years to cracking down on gun crime has made it tougher for aspiring criminals to obtain their weapon of choice.
That means they are unsheathing their weapons of second choice – kitchen knives, jackknives, hunting knives and, if they can get them, illegal switchblades and butterfly knives. “All those things we’re doing to decrease firearm weapons is cutting down the availability of these guns,” says Staff Inspector Brian Raybould, the head of the Toronto police homicide squad. “At the same time, criminals who choose to arm themselves have to find some way to do it. If firearms aren’t available, what’s the next best thing? Knives, sharp-edged weapons.”
Heightened security at Canada-U.S. border crossings and programs such as the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS), started in 2005 to curb street violence by increasing the police presence in high-crime neighbourhoods, have helped to drive down the frequency of gunpoint retail and bank heists. Robbers are turning to knives instead, Staff Insp. Raybould says.
Over all, police and paramedics in the Greater Toronto Area attended more stabbing calls from January to April this year (April is the last month of 2008 for which statistics are available) than they did in the same period last year.
Toronto police responded to 167 stabbings up to the end of April, 2008 – in 73 of those cases, the victims were taken to hospital in serious condition. That’s up from 58 by April last year.
Still, overall homicide rates – by any method – for Toronto and its suburbs are roughly the same so far this year as they were last year.
This mirrors what is happening in Britain where firearms ownership is virtually banned.
Knife crime among young people has sparked a widespread debate in recent weeks in Britain, where police say they have seen “a worrying trend” toward more severe knife attacks involving younger attackers and victims.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Thursday announced a crackdown on teenagers carrying knives, saying that those as young as 16 will be prosecuted for knife possession on the first offense. Previously, anyone younger than 18 generally received only a warning.
“Young people need to understand that carrying knives doesn’t protect you, it does the opposite — it increases the danger for all of us, destroys young lives and ruins families,” Brown said after meeting with top police and government officials at his 10 Downing Street office. “Recent tragic events have reminded us of that.”
In a country where almost all guns are illegal, police say knives are the most popular weapons carried by youths in major cities from London to Glasgow. A police stop-and-search campaign in London last month found that about 5 percent of the 4,200 youths randomly checked were carrying knives.
It seems that if individuals are inclined to violence they will use whatever weapons they have on hand and if they can find a way to ban knives the thugs will be using baseball bats to solve their disputes. Or worse.
All of this is akin to covering up the spots to cure measles.